How your CAT prep helps in other B-school tests
A lot of serious MBA aspirants who are determined to get in the MBA class of 2011 spread their risks across tests, so that their chances of getting into a business school are not limited to the performance on that one day of CAT.
If you are one of them, this article should be helpful.
Your CAT preparation will take care of a large part of your preparation for XAT, IIFT, FMS, SNAP, JMET and NMAT. Yet, there are some areas specific to each test -- at the concept level and strategy level (sectional and overall) that will need to be incorporated and changed according to each test's requirement.
Difference in focus- Accuracy v/s speed
From 2006 CAT has ceased to be a test that focuses predominantly on speed. With a reduced number of questions, more complex data in each question and more time at hand per question, it is now a test which predominantly focuses on accuracy.
XAT has always been a test that focuses on accuracy. With the high level of difficulty in XAT, and incremental negative marking, being careful in your attempts in XAT is very important. Fewer number of attempts with high level of accuracy is a good combination to get a high percentile in XAT.
FMS, IIFT, JMET, NMAT and SNAP are tests that still focus on speed. They have higher number of questions to be attempted, with less complex data in each question and less time at hand per question (only JMET is a 3-hour test). This difference in the basic philosophy of these tests requires you to incorporate a change in strategy.
Sectional cut-offs are high and important in CAT and XAT -- you need to do well across all the sections. They are however not as high in tests like JMET and FMS. You can attempt fewer questions from your weak areas here and maximise your overall scores and percentiles by attacking the sections that you are good at.
Time spent per question
As the number of questions in CAT and XAT are on the lower side -- around 60-70 in CAT and 100 in XAT -- you have ample time. Give or take a few questions, you will need to attempt 50 questions in each of these two tests, which means you have a nice 2 to 3 minutes per question. In fact, after spending considerable amount of time on the question, if you realise that it's not leading you to any right answer option, you can afford to leave the question and move ahead. Intelligent guessing for quite a few questions in CAT and XAT may be counter-productive.
Compare this with the other tests where the number of questions range anywhere from 120 to 200 and the attempts need to be anywhere from 80 to 150 to get a call. Naturally, the time spent on each question drastically reduces to a minute or sometimes even less than that. In such a case, you may be forced to go ahead with intelligent guessing for a few questions where you are not able to eliminate one option from the remaining two that you narrowed down to.
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A section-wise analysis
CAT and XAT require you to have sound understanding of basic concepts to solve questions in this section. A lot of questions are complex and applications based -- you need to combine two to three concepts to arrive at an answer.
FMS and other tests are more formula based. Even if you are not great with some concepts, a good knowledge of formulae can actually help you sail through this section. This understanding is beneficial, particularly to those who are not so strong in Quant.
There are no specific question types or flavour that can be branded as CAT and XAT specific. The question types can be expected to be similar to what you would have learnt throughout your preparation. The only clear trend here is that the questions are a mix of calculation and reasoning -- you need to be good at both to crack the sets. Naturally the time taken to solve the entire set will go up substantially.
In the other tests, DI is often highly calculation intensive with very close answer options (especially in IIFT). You would do well to memorise tables till 30, squares and cubes till 15 and square roots and reciprocals till 10.
CAT and XAT put a lot of emphasis on the reasoning part of Verbal. Even grammar and vocabulary questions are usage based. Fill in the blanks, homonym type word selection, jumbled sentences, paragraph completion do not have very clearly identifiable patterns. You will need to dig deeper to understand not only the sentence structure but also the subject matter under consideration, the tone and style of data presented, before arriving at the right answer option.
The other tests put more emphasis on knowledge of pure vocabulary and grammar. The question types are more direct -- synonym, antonyms, analogies, correct-incorrect sentences, error spotting. A reasonable understanding of basics of grammar and a good armory of vocabulary can help you sail through the English Usage section of FMS, IIFT, JMET and SNAP.
A large part of XAT is complex CR questions -- inference, assumption, strengthen-weaken the argument. Although CR questions do make an appearance in IIFT, JMET and SNAP, they are much simpler and easily doable.
You can expect small (about half a page) but dense passages in XAT with fewer questions -- 2 to 4 per passage. All the questions in XAT are highly inferential. The subject matter of the passage is abstract and the five options to choose from are very close, making it that much more difficult to arrive at a right answer with conviction.
Compared to that, IIFT, JMET and FMS have been known to give lengthy passages, sometimes running into 3 and 1/2 pages. The number of questions per passage can range from 6 to 24 (FMS 2010 had a passage with 24 questions). The passages, though lengthy are less complex, from more comfortable topics and have more direct than inferential questions. Four options (instead of 5) play their part in making option selection less tedious.
Skimming-scanning and all the other speed reading techniques that are hardly of any use in CAT and XAT, come in very handy here.
XAT: A dozen on decision making -- ethical dilemma, a couple on higher mathematics, calculus.
IIFT: A few on Logical conditions and Grouping -- binary logic. Possibly a couple on sequential input-output and an entire section on General Awareness with an emphasis on trade, international bodies, agreements, brands etc.
SNAP: A few on Visual Reasoning, a couple on probability distributions and an entire section on Current Affairs.
FMS: Synonym type -- cluster of words defining a category, proverbs, idioms.
JMET: A few on Logical conditions and grouping -- binary logic, linear programming.
As the dates of a lot of entrance tests have changed (brought forward) this season, your mock test-taking strategy will also need to adapt to the change. Considering the fact that you have a week's gap between two successive tests in this season, there is not much time to practice a dozen mocks for each test.
Take a free mock test (and possibly one more mock test) much earlier than the actual week of your test. This will help you assess how you stand in your preparation for that particular test. Then in the week of the test (almost all the tests are on Sundays), take a mock each on Tuesday and Friday.
Give ample time to analyse your performance after each mock so that you are able to improve on the question types specific to that test.
Keep these basic, but often overlooked, learnings intact while preparing for the tests. They may just help tip the scale in your favour.